Thursday, 6 November 2008

eddie koiki mabo

The very worthwhile TV series, The First Australians, concluded this week, and it was compelling, if often distressing, viewing. It has already thrown up some previously unsung heroes, like Barak and Rev John Green, and shown some other historical figures, such as Bennelong, Watkin Tench and William Dawes, in a new light.

The final episode was about the fight for legal recognition of Aboriginal land rights, and the end of the myth of "terra nullius", the obviously erroneous and insulting idea that the first British settlers were entering an empty land. I always knew that the fight centred around Torres Strait Islander, Eddie Koiki Mabo, but I didn't know before what an admirable figure Mabo was.

Exiled from his home island of Mer (Murray Island), Mabo established in Townsville a number of projects to support indigenous families and communities, including a health service and community school. Then when he became aware that land began a ten year court action that finally led to the historic decision on Aboriginal land rights, which changed land law irrevocably in Australia.

Unfortunately, Eddie Mabo didn't live to see his people's triumph, dying in 1992, five months before the decision was handed down. Read more about Eddie Mabo in Wikipedia and Racism, No Way.

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